FOR NOW, let’s temporarily put aside the three-ring circus playing out with the New England Patriots’ offensive staff and identity of the play-caller.
Let’s temporarily ignore Bill Belichick saying we’re “months away” from establishing who is going to call the offensive plays this season.
Instead, let’s focus on something that’s more important and certainly more relevant in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s concentrate on Mac Jones, and how good he looked on Monday during optional team activities in Foxborough, Mass.
The Patriots’ future ultimately rests with their second-year quarterback, and given how he looked physically, not to mention how much work he put in overall during the offseason to improve, there is reason for optimism.
Let’s just say Jones and his commitment is the least of the worries, as Monday marked the first time the media was able to view the Patriots quarterback out on the field throwing a football since the team’s January playoff loss to Buffalo.
Up close, it was noticeable how much he’d trimmed down. It was evident in how well he moved, as Jones was in an unfamiliar spot out in front during the running drills at the end of practice.
Jones’ improved body shape was evident. So was how well he delivered the football during practice, as well as beyond practice, as he took extra time after the workout to hone his deep ball.
Teammate Kendrick Bourne couldn’t help but boast about the new Mac who showed up to OTAs.
“He’s in the best shape of his life. I think he’s been here the whole offseason with (strength coach) Moses (Cabrera),” said Bourne. “His stomach is gone. And he looks really good.
“He’s definitely a pro’s pro now. When you’re a rookie, you just don’t know until you go through it for a year,” Bourne went on. “So he’s definitely a lot more in shape than he ever was. He’s just dominating in conditioning, and it’s just dope to see.”
It’s “dope” for a lot of reasons.
Jones vowed he would be fitter and eat better, in order to allow his body to better withstand the rigors of an NFL season.
That was one of his top offseason goals. It was also important for Jones to dump the doughy belly and add some muscle to his frame to help get a little more zip on his throws, particularly out to the sideline.
He’s clearly been working on all phases, which might be the best news. Just seeing him follow through on his commitment to improving was encouraging.
“I think every year, you want to do a self-diagnosis of how you felt for the games, your body fat, all that stuff,” Jones said. “For me, just cleaning up my diet, I’ve learned more this offseason than I probably have about nutrition, sleep, wellness, all that stuff.
“I’m taking what I’ve learned I feel will help me, and apply it. Obviously, listening to Ted (Harper, team nutritionist), and everybody, just following their plan, eating healthy, and taking out a lot of things that are bad for my diet.”
Jones said it was a fine balance trying to trim fat, while also maintaining his weight. Because that’s just as important to his development.
“For me, I’ve definitely trimmed down my body fat a little bit,” he said. “I’ll get a chance to bulk back up before the season starts, and being able to absorb the hits.”
Beyond having a better body, Jones also worked on his delivery trying to improve throws from all distances, be it short, long or intermediate. He’s trying to “fine-tune” his mechanics.
To that end, he worked a bit with Tom House, who works with Tom Brady, among others. He also continues to work with Joe Dickinson, another renowned QB coach he’s worked with since a young age.
“Yeah, that’s something I also worked on a lot, was just my knowledge of quarterback mechanics and stuff. Obviously, a lot of it goes into training your arm the right way, and learning about that,” he said. “You can never have too much knowledge. A lot of it is training my arm a certain way, recovery, all that stuff. And my body feels good. There’s nothing lingering, no bad injuries or anything like that. I’m blessed with that.
“I feel a lot better just trying to work, and be the best quarterback I can be right now.”
Jones also thought it was important to work on throwing the ball in all conditions, be it rain, snow, sleet or wind, trying to understand what works best.
Perhaps only being asked to throw the football three times in a ferocious wind in Buffalo during the Week 13 game last season provided some of the impetus for Jones to be able to deal with unusual conditions.
“You have to be able to complete passes in those elements, so I challenged myself with that,” he said.
As for the challenge of not having a play-caller, or an offensive coordinator by title at the moment, Jones didn’t sound too stressed having a revolving door with Joe Judge, Matt Patricia, and Bill Belichick overseeing the offense.
“I think right now, it’s all about learning. First thing, you come out and you set a baseline, fix the things you want to fix and like I said, they all have a great knowledge of our offense,” said Jones. “We’re all on the same page, that’s the important part to me. There’s no fall off or anything like that.
“It’s not my decision to make,” he went on. “We have plenty of time for all that. Right now, it’s about the guys and I getting on the same page — running backs, tight ends, receivers — and then working with the offensive line.
“It always goes back to the players, and we’re excited to learn from whoever is coaching us. We don’t mind anybody.”
It does go back to the players. And Jones is clearly putting his best foot forward, no matter which coach directs him on game day.